eCommerce uptake higher among regional SMEs: Survey

eCommerce uptake is higher among regional businesses than city-based businesses, a new survey reveals, while Queensland has the highest percentage of SMEs with an online presence.


Telstra, in conjunction with the Council of Small Business of Australia, surveyed 1,000 small businesses about their online operations.


Of the 36% of small businesses with a website, 63% are selling products or services online, while 67% regard their website as important or very important.


According to the study’s authors, the finding “validates anecdotal evidence that Australian small business is much more nimble in seizing online opportunities than the top end of town”.


Charles Agee, Telstra executive director of small businesses, says SMEs are leading the way with regard to the growth of eCommerce.


“While there’s been much debate about online shoppers buying products overseas, the move online by small Australian retailers and service-based companies has developed from a ripple into a wave,” he says.


The report reveals eCommerce uptake is higher among regional small businesses, with 67% making the move compared to 62% of city-based businesses.


Queensland has the higher percentage of SMEs with an online presence at 43%, compared to 39% of SMEs in NSW, and 37% in the Northern Territory and the ACT.


According to the report, the proportion of turnover online is strongest in the transport and storage sector, at 55.4%, followed by accommodation, cafes, restaurant and travel (53.8%) and retail (52.3%).


Of the businesses planning to spend more this year, 42% plan to spend on ICT, namely to upgrade technology, increase productivity and enhance customer service.


Agee says mobile internet is particularly important to SMEs for the flexibility it allows.


“The research also shows 89% of small businesses see work/life balance as very important or important,” he says.


“Earlier research shows there is a clear link between both issues, with technology such as smartphones, tablets and wireless broadband being an enabler of more flexible working.”


However, COSBOA executive director Peter Strong says the internet could also pose problems for small businesses.


“Access for small businesses is an issue… if it becomes based on the power of the dollar. Overwhelmingly, the main way people search online is with Google,” he says.


“But we’re worried that at some time small businesses might be squeezed out from the internet. It’s similar to small business being unable to get into shopping centres.”


“We were told that it wouldn’t be a problem but it is the wealthy businesses that tend to win out.”


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